by Mark Entzminger/ September 17, 2018
One of the biggest tragedies in children’s ministry is to have a passionate leader with a big vision to reach children, but funding is lacking to put the plan into action.
The tips below are not a silver bullet and they will require some additional work. But if the vision you have is really important, then these considerations just might make the difference between success and failure.
NOTE: Because every church finance structure is different, some ideas below may not be currently allowed. However, I do oftentimes find that funding would be available if some of the steps would be followed. Never say “no” for someone. Present the vision, consider these ideas, and see how God provides!
This is not a token prayer: “Well God, here we go—help me out here.” Our prayer should be intentional and dependent on God working a miracle. It’s showing God you recognize that in whatever way the funds come in, it is because of His grace in your life.
Remember Nehemiah? He fasted and prayed. Then God gave him favor with the king—so much favor that he reversed laws and policies to allow the rebuilding of the wall in Jerusalem. He also sent funds and offered protection to make the mission possible. The catalyst for the provision was the humility, prayer, and fasting of Nehemiah.
Take your needs to God first!
Often our plans fail because we have not written them down. Recently I was working with a ministry that was asked what they would do with a million dollars if they had it. We might all like to have that kind of money, but if we were given the million, do we really know what it would fund and how far it would go?
Think of it in another way. Consider the dream and the vision you need funding for. For instance, do you know how much it would cost to purchase a bus? Who would drive it? How much would it cost to gas it up each week? What would the cost of painting be to change it from school bus yellow? Consider the outreach you are wanting to lead. Have you put effort into knowing how much it will cost for the supplies, the prizes, the food, promotion, etc?
Getting a church leader to say, “Yes, that’s a great idea” may only require a few moments of time. But asking for funding the dream will take work and a written plan.
I recall a dream I had for leading a missions outreach in El Salvador. When I went to our leadership team to gain their blessing I was able to articulate how much we needed to cover the venue rental, special guests, transportation, security, promotion, etc. It had been bathed in prayer, and their response was more than I could have ever imagined.
But had I not known the total “price tag” for the outreach I don’t think the funding would have followed.
Sometimes the only choice we give leadership is “take it” or “leave it.” This can be a mistake. Perhaps four options need to be presented:
Presenting options doesn’t always need to be fully detailed for the presentation to leadership, but there needs to be enough awareness of the estimated cost that a range of investment can be fully understood between the different options.
As I like to say: Shoot for the stars but be happy if you reach the moon.
In some instances, requests for funding work better if the first ten or twenty percent of the total budget has been committed. For instance, if the total cost of the dream is $5,000 and you inform those approving the request that you’ve already received a commitment for $500 or $1,000 toward the total, it sends a signal that you are very serious about the dream and other people are already behind it as well.
The reverse of this also works. Sometimes asking church leadership to cover half of the total project only if you find private donations to cover the other half make the project a bit more palatable.
In the church world, leaders can often get very good at giving away other people’s money. Coming up with dreams and visions and always expecting other people to contribute to those dreams and visions without it ever actually costing us anything is not the recommended approach.
If you really believe in it and are hoping other people will too, then why not start the funding with your own personal investment?
This is another great way to help people know you are fully on board with the vision and have gone first in response to helping the dream become a reality.
Some dreams that require funding may be the kinds of dreams business leaders in the church would get behind. For instance, if your goal was to provide backpacks for kids to start the school year, perhaps an insurance company would purchase them in exchange for placing their logo on each of the bags or putting something inside.
Maybe you are raising money to help bless teachers in the schools. Consider asking dentists and doctors in your church or community to get on board. Community impact projects are often the kinds of things small business like to support. It helps to build a positive reputation for them in the community and helps empower the dreams you have for making a difference.
Though there’s a variety of businesses to consider, usually radio stations, insurance companies, auto dealers, dentists, orthodontists, doctors, and chiropractors might be the people who are willing to contribute to your cause.
The key here is relationship and knowing your cause matches their passion. Don’t expect to drop in to a local business with a flyer and a compelling story and walk out with a $10,000 check. These relationships take time to nurture—and they must be genuine relationships. Who do you already know in the community who might want to invest? Start there.
Most churches have an annual budget cycle. Though their fiscal year could begin at any time during the year, January 1 through the end of December is fairly common. That means during the fall of the year you’ll need to begin thinking of the kinds of things which will need funding.
Planning an annual budget may be one of the best chances to get the funding you need. The church leadership is considering all the ministries in focus for the coming year and determining what will get priority with the limited resources they expect to receive.
That’s where a well-planned budget that is based on vision and life transformation can make a difference. If all you are asking for is the same kind of funding you’ve received every other year, then simply put together a spreadsheet with the appropriate headers, columns, and numbers that seem to be in line with the attendance trends of the church.
However, If you are dreaming of something new, then the budget needs to be built around vision. This means you’ll need to use both words and numbers. Consider a cover letter that describes the new kind of ministry you are hoping to accomplish. The increase in the funding request will result in more effective ministry.
Let’s face it, not every great children’s leader is gifted at crafting plans which will outline their dream or communicate it in a compelling way. By partnering with someone who can help you strengthen the language you use, and even work through some of the details of the plan, can come in very handy.
If you have a more experienced staff member on the team, present your dream to that person, and request help in knowing what kinds of questions church leadership may want to ask about what you are presenting.
Maybe you have a small business owner in the church who could review the details of your plan and show you where you might be missing some insight related to the logistics and finances in your plan.
Having more people may be a bit scary because you don’t know what they will say. But the truth of the matter is, if you are afraid to ask people to help you make your plan stronger, then you may not be ready for the questions that come when you are asking for funding either.
Perhaps this is the most important and most overlooked tip on getting the funding you need. Some leaders have big dreams, see their peers doing big things, and want to start just as big as what they see others doing. What they don’t realize is that in 99 percent of these cases people were not handed massive budgets and ministries without having proven themselves responsible in some form or fashion.
So, what do you have right now? Do you have $0.00 in the budget? Then how do you make what you have last and last? If you get $250.00 annually, how do you invest that money to show the life transformation that happens with the dollars?
Be willing to steward well whatever you currently have, and when more comes your way, continue to be responsible.
If starting small and stewarding well is the most overlooked tip, not showing the results of the investment might be the biggest mistake after receiving the funding. When people have been moved by the vision and the life transformation of the dollars with which you have been entrusted, they want to see a return on their investment.
Think of it this way: Where your money is, your heart will be also. If they have given their money, they have also loaned you a piece of their heart. This is more than saying thank you. It’s reporting back to the donor or the committee stating: This is what I told you I would do with the funds, here is what I have done, and here are some of the stories of life transformation that resulted.
It’s very easy to move from one dream to the next and never stop and say thanks to God for His faithfulness. So make this a priority. But also remember to thank the people who have given their time, money, and expertise. If you do this, they will be more willing to help next time when they know the kind of change which results when they empower your vision.